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Why Dieting is So Hard and What to Do Instead

Are you happy with your body? I don’t know many women who are. In fact, most of those I talk to are trying to lose weight, whether it’s 5lbs or 50lbs and whether they are 25 or 55. Perhaps some of their comments will sound familiar: “I just need more will power,” “I just need to find the right diet,” and “My diet starts on Monday.”

I experience very strong feelings when the word "diet" is mentioned. The diet industry is a billion-dollar industry that tells us all we need is the right diet and we’ll be thin again. This type of advertising is very misleading.

The truth is that if you diet:

  • There is at least a 93% chance that you will continue to progressively gain weight over the long term.

  • At least 95% of people who lose weight will gain it back and then some within two to five years, which means you have a 5% chance of success of maintaining your weight loss.

Why it’s SO Hard to Stick to a Diet

Would you listen to someone who was trying to steal from you? Starve you? Force you to work overtime everyday, even on weekends, without any reward?

That’s essentially what you do to your body when you go on a diet. Eventually you would rebel too, no?

7 Reasons Why Dieting is So Hard

  1. The first diet is easiest. With every diet thereafter it becomes harder and harder to lose weight. Sound familiar?

  2. Your body knows you’re trying to starve it and will resist. It becomes better and better at resisting with each diet. You can’t get around this, it’s how your body is built.

  3. It's not about food. It’s about your mother dying when you were 12, it’s about you being bullied in high school, it’s about your alcoholic father, it’s about your teachers calling you dumb in elementary school, but it’s not about food.

  4. It’s not about willpower either, no matter how much you would like to think it is.

  5. Food soothes feelings. You may not even realize that you’re avoiding difficult emotions by snacking at night in front of the TV.

  6. You’re not listening to your body, rather you’re imposing arbitrary and unreasonable rules upon it.

  7. As soon as you’re depriving yourself of something, you will naturally want it more. That’s how our minds work. We want what we “can’t” have. It has been well documented that periods of deprivation lead to binge eating and over eating. Restriction triggers the diet-binge-gain cycle in which so many of us get caught.

  8. You’re forcing your body (and mind) into something that’s not natural. Our bodies were not created for dieting.

What to Do Instead of Dieting

How would you feel if you could eat what you wanted to eat, when you wanted to eat it, all while maintaining a stable weight and loving your body? Pretty great, right? And it's possible. What I'm talking about is Intuitive Eating.

Intuitive Eating essentially means eating according to what your intuition tells you, or put another way, eating according to how your body was naturally designed to eat. Intuitive Eating may take time, practice, and patience, but it pays off in spades. Here are my best Intuitive Eating tips to get you started:

10 Tips for Natural and Healthy Weight Management

  1. Eat when you’re hungry. Don’t wait until you’re starving or hangry. Notice how you know when you are hungry, what sensations do you feel, and in which parts of your body.

  2. Eat what you want. Tune in to yourself and really notice what food would most satisfy you. Don’t just give into cravings. Eat what you want to eat, but really pay attention to it. What does it feel like in your mouth? What do you like about it? Is it the crunchy texture? Perhaps it is the colour or flavour. Or maybe you are suddenly realizing that you don’t actually like your usual go-to comfort food all that much. Once you identify what your body really wants and how much of it, you might be surprised to discover that it isn’t a syrupy latte, potato chips or a chocolate bar, but actually fruit, vegetables and healthy fats.

  3. Stop when you are satisfied. Stop eating before you’re full or stuffed.

  4. Eat without distractions. This is the kicker. No TV, no internet, no phone, no book, no tablet, no e-reader, no magazines (gasp!). No distractions. Music is fine, the company of other people is great. And that’s IT. This allows you to fully focus on your food. Sitting quietly and eating can be challenging, because you are alone with your thoughts and emotions. If this is very uncomfortable, journaling while you eat can be helpful. Write down your feelings while you are eating, and you will begin to see patterns emerge. It’s not about the food, it’s about the emotions, and once you start to connect more to your emotions and express them, the charge you feel around food will start to fade.

  5. Chew your food well. 30-50 chews per mouthful, which might seem like a lot at first. Work your way up to the ideal amount in small increments.

  6. Move your body in a way that feels right, whether it’s dancing, walking, hiking or whatever it is that really brings you joy.

  7. Be kind to yourself. Look after your emotional needs. Your emotional self needs love and support and maybe a bubble bath, but not food.

  8. Honour your emotions. So what do you do with the emotions you are suddenly feeling? With the patterns you are seeing? Often, you might find you need outside support. Consider talking to a supportive friend or a counsellor.

  9. Trust your body. It knows what it needs.If you feel like you don’t trust your body not to gain weight, it’s likely because you’ve stopped listening to it. Listening to and trusting your body really works, although it can be scary at first.

  10. Accept your body as it is in this moment. There is probably a little voice somewhere inside your head saying “Now way, not looking like this! That will happen once I lose the weight.” Accepting your body as it is right now can be challenging, but what has hating your it brought you? Perhaps it is time to try loving and listening to your body and seeing what happens.

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is not just about what you put in your mouth, it’s about looking after yourself mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Exercise and a clean diet can make a big difference, but developing a healthy relationship with food is key. Chances are you are not going to drop 10lbs in a week with Intuitive Eating, or even a month, but over a period of time your weight will stabilize, and over your lifetime you will be happier and healthier. You won’t be in the diet-binge-gain cycle anymore and you won’t keep gaining weight.

If you’re tired of dieting, I invite you to give yourself a break and try a more natural way of taking care of yourself.

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